More than a year and a half after California voters passed Proposition 47, the ballot measure that reduced some nonviolent drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, supporters and opponents are still arguing over whether it was a good idea. While law enforcement groups link the changes to a spike in crime, the criminal justice advocates who pushed for the initiative point to reductions in the state’s prison population.
During that time, more than 200,000 current and ex-felons have also petitioned to have their criminal records reclassified, a unique aspect of the law that would give them a fresh start in employment and housing. The flood of applications has overwhelmed courthouses across California, but supporters say there are still many others who are eligible and have not yet taken advantage of the opportunity.
Californians for Safety and Justice, the organization behind Proposition 47, has been reaching out to those people through events that offer them free legal assistance. Their first in Northern California takes place Saturday at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, connecting attendees with volunteer attorneys who can review their criminal records and help them apply for a record change.
Under Proposition 47, people can continue to file for reclassification until November 4, 2017, though a bill this session from Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, would extend that deadline by another five years.
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STUDY UP: The ballot this November is going to be long. Very, very long. Voters could be facing nearly 20 initiatives when all is said and done. So what impact does it have when there are so many decisions to make in an election? Sacramento State’s Center for California Studies may have the answer. Visiting scholar Joshua Dyck, an associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, will present his research on the effects of ballot initiatives on voter experience before a panel discussion with elections and turnout experts, 10:30 am at the Capitol Event Center on 11th Street.
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